17 Santa Cruz Poets — The 17th Annual National Poetry Month - 2012 PreviousNextHome


Neli Moody

Neli Moody

About Neli:
Neli Moody is a writer and teacher at San Jose State University in the English Department. Her book, After Alatmira: Poems by Neli Moody, was published in 2006 by Ishmael Reed Publishing Company. Her poems have appeared in such publications as Reed Magazine, Konch Magazine, Brick and Mortar Review, and Reverie. Her critical work, “A Syntax of Stones: Pre-Text, Edifice, and the Sacred Space in Richard Berengarten’s ‘Avebury’” was published by Salt Publishing in the UK in 2011 in the Salt Companion to Richard Berengarten. She is currently working on a children’s fantasy novel. Pleasures include: dancing (Polynesian), singing, cooking, being a grandmother, walking and anything on the water.


Hog capital, city of machine builders, haven of runaway slaves,

Prospers on the Union side of the Roebling Bridge,

Sister to the Hudson span. Rises on seven hills, green

Legacy of glaciers that paused, then halted here. Beautiful

Ohio esses between the city and Kentucky. 

That view of the city, I recall, and how the emerald cascaded down

To the water from every hill. Adams, Auburn, Price, Vine St.

Walnut, College, Fairmount. An hour away,

The Adena snake sinewed, largest effigy mound in the world,

An egg in its mouth, three coils of tail at the end. One autumn,

My little daughter and I sat at Brush Creek,

The air full of spice, the leaves turned to amber.

It seemed that the blue shadows of glaciers rose

And ancient peoples burying what they had carried,

Shaped, smoothed, lost. It seemed the lady of Munich,

“The Genius of Water,” generosity flowing

From her bronze hands in the center of the city

Had roots in every stream, this one, the river,

And German immigrants, Italians, former slaves,

Tanners and butchers might drink their fill.

I was born there, conjured out of the same clay

That made the pots, the tools, the bridge, the city.

Now, writing from the Golden State, enamored

Of the blue Pacific, and miles below the Golden Gate,

I think of Cincinnati, all I am, all I was, things buried,

Things uncovered, and what I left behind.


For Traffiking in Kin

Gold is a mighty seducer. Diamonds hold hostage a thousand

Suns. The moon hoards silver. Sorrow wide as the river runs.

Blood purchase my sister, my brother, a price too dear. Ebony

trunks, heartwood thump, grief in the tse tse’s hum. Hear? Ivory

Coast brambled with bones and ghosts, clatter, moan. Oshun

Turns away.

propped on a darkwood cane, a lady in silk vined with disease waits,

belly putrid as the ships that bob across the sea, snarling sails,

gales of the Middle Passage,  Desire, Hope, Wanderer bound

for Amerika “Done sold myself” and the children

are thrown into the sea for weeping

first mate’s eyes sweeping the horizon, pinch in his spine, pinch

of Ananzi, the stench of oppression snakes up the hold

her white handkerchief flutters away,

gold band, heart in brine of tears

At the lunar eclipse,

slave chains slip like kelp, slip away, shackles melt like wax,

captains turn to sand,  merchants are fattened on the pages of Bibles

and set aflame, and shamed complicit kin are served to sharks

on platters made of pearls.


Soul Fleeing Mountain

At the top of the world, there is only down. Fallen

Climbers, lost footing. Everest collects bodies,

Leaves them as a warning, “There are forces so

Monumental, they can steal a man’s breath, shred

A person’s will to live into a thousand ribbons of colored silk

And cast them into the fog.” Green boots against the snow

A shrill tune on a bone flute, the knife edges of the mountain

Scrap the sky, Titans, too old to care.

Men and women are scattered in the snow and mantic clouds divining

Where the thin air is a vice and promise of immortality, one way

Or another. Where does the soul flee when the only path is down?

Above the summit, souls bump against the dome of Earth frozen

In wonder, puffs of breath issuing from their open mouths tinging

Like tiny bells.

Ancheta || Atkinson || Crux || Dancing Bear || Freeman || Glick || Ifland || Moody || Omosupe || Robbins || Sirens || Spencer || Sullivan || Sumrall || Tagami || Teutsch || Weisner
  Co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz and phren-Z   A publication of Santa Cruz Writes